The Thousand Archetypes of Love
By Stephanie Derosier
Love is not linear. Sex is not rational. Emotions won't cooperate with the mind's methodical attempts to analyze lust's sticky substance. The brain will not sit idly by and watch while the heart, lungs, groin, and guts break from convention and dive headlong into the sensual experience. And the spirit can never thrive when deprivation exists in parts of our being. This is the crux of the matter: All ends must join together in some semblance of harmony and participation if ever a fully engaging and satisfying experience of sexuality is to be had.
But where do we get permission to be alive in every way – to take the risk of opening our eyes when we kiss, to touch every part of ourselves as well as another without fear of reproach? Somewhere deep inside lies a memory of such freedom and bravery. It must surface if we are to be people who love. We must grant the permission today that was not granted to us as children or teenagers. We must, with the love and support of others, liberate ourselves from the prison of our minds, the minefield of our hearts, and the dragon's lair of our sex.
We must brave the fire of honesty that strips away deceit and illusions of security – stand naked in front of the mirror to face every curve, wrinkle, follicle, dimple, and pimple until the inherent beauty and sensuality pours out into the room for our eyes to see. We must look forward to imagine the possibilities and back to face the mistaken belief that there is only room for one part of us at a time in life.
We must be willing to face ourselves, and the roads we've traveled, in the archetypal journey through lust, love, passion, and pain ... without judgment.
Penthouse magazine used to have a comic strip featuring a beautiful, big-breasted dominatrix who loved to be tied up by strange, sadistic, mad scientist-looking men in dungeons – on her way to conquering the world or slaying bad guys. Or something like that. I read them in my spare time as a child. Sensuous, adult magazines taught me how to be sexual. How to be a sexual object. I was a sensitive, impressionable young child. I was four.
I remember my first crush. He was taller than me, and a few years older, but he never seemed to mind my watching him, his hair dancing in the sun, skin golden like honey, swirling down the corkscrew slide and running under the big kid swings on the playground. I was five.
By the lamplight of my little blue bedroom, piles of stuffed animals all around, I reached my first orgasm. I was seven.
It's shameful. In a culture of so much sexual currency, we do not protect the innocent sensuality of youth. The Maiden's budding breasts and glowing skin are inherently attractive, yet without healthy instruction and support from elders, they can often invite experiences both dangerous and unexpected.
While the other 5th grade girls were padding their white, lacy training-bras in hopes of catching the sixth graders' eyes, I was wiping my clammy little hands against my dusty corduroys, praying none of my guy friends would notice my already-too-small tan trainer. They noticed. They noticed more as these soft mounds of flesh on my chest grew all too rapidly.
"Let me rub your back," he said as the TV rattled on across the little musty living room.
"Nah, I'm okay. Really, I'm fine."
"Here, it will feel good."
He moved the wooden massage roller over my back. Under my shirt. Closer to my side. Around near my breasts. My mind went blank, aching legs, silent scream. Help me.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"No! I really have to go!" He released me. I ran, hid, pressed my small frame against the door. Begged empty space for someone to save me. Mommy. Call Mommy. The phone seemed a hundred miles away from the door. Would he stop me? No, he's a coward. I'm just a little girl.
"Honey? What's wrong?" Tears welled up in my eyes, lips quivered in fear and anxiety.
"Mom, I want to come home." I was twelve.
Though other girls might have envied me, I was devastated as the letters on my bras increased from trainer to DD in three years' time. Drunken men made passes at me as I waited on bar stools for grown-ups to take me home. I had unwittingly become the woman in the pictures. I was thirteen.
To an already conflicted youth, strangled by hormones and loneliness, society offers the gallant mixed message of 'don't have sex' and 'just do it'. As teenagers, we are full of desire, but for what? We are full of angst, but over what? Before long, it doesn't matter what the real answers may be. We let desire and curiosity guide our ship, drawn by an unnamable feeling that what we long for is 'out there' somewhere.
The archetypal journey begins unfolding through the flesh. And we grasp one another, aching for the world to meet us in the places we feel most alone. Mythic characters of Heroes and Rebels find their places in our beds – looking, perhaps, for their own counterparts, seeking the shadows they themselves have yet to embody.
Two sentences comprised the sum of my sexual guidance. "You come from a very sexual family," and, "Make sure it's with someone you love." Before long, these defined the parameters of my new goal: losing my virginity. Somewhere inside, I suspected I wasn't emotionally prepared – that I was selling my innocence for a ticket to nowhere. But boys were intoxicating. The taste of their lips, the texture of their tongues, and the musky, delicate scent of their skin filled my body's yearning.
Desire won the round. So, I waited until the first sign of having "fallen in love," and let the young gentle man know with stunted, nonverbal cues that I was ready. As much as one can expect an eighteen-year-old boy to be, he was present, thoughtful, and kind. My eyes fluttered open to the slow, deliberate notes from U2's "With or Without You" as it flowed from the soft glow of the alarm clock. The Wrestler awoke and moved closer ... touched me in the darkness ... made love with me again. I was fifteen.
Like an animal let out of a cage, my hunger led to a long chain of sexual partners and innocence-defiling, lust-filled encounters. Perhaps I took the easy way out, choosing sexuality over chastity, excess over restraint. But it was just too hard to say no – to my curiosity, my desire, my unending need for approval, and the particular kind of attention found in the arms of a teenaged boy. If I was a slut, there were bigger ones.
"I didn't know you had sex with John."
"He taped it. Did you know?"
"I haven't heard it myself. I don't want to, even though we weren't together then; but his best friend told me about it. I was kind of embarrassed for you."
"Oh my God." I was sixteen.
My drug of choice
Sex became my drug, the magic elixir that brought comfort and confidence to an insecure and lonely life. For me, it was the best – or fastest – way to feel "good enough," at least for right now.
Halloween. Acid. The end of a party. He kissed me, pressed me into the couch. I kissed back at first, then got scared. Blacked-out drunk. I didn't want this. He pulled me down onto the floor – his best friend passed out in a chair three feet away. Don't make noise ... paralyzed. He pulled my pants down. Too big to push off of me.
"No. Please. No. Don't."
"Shhh, Steph. Be quiet."
"Don't. Don't." Then inside me. One tear dropped, then another. I couldn't get away. I was seventeen.
High school came and passed. Two among the many had a hold on me for years to come – one haunted, the other broke my heart. The Artist loved me so honestly and openly that I couldn't help but love him back. He officially broke my heart at the end of my junior year. It was a death of faith from which I felt sure to never recover.
The other, the quiet Rebel, shook my heart and trembled my soul. Like a ghost, he moved through my world, leaving sighs and cravings behind. I couldn't tell him the truth. I could never be that honest – or that vulnerable. Together, they reflected my innermost experience of love: a toggle between the safe, level-headed life and a fiercely passionate, but volatile one. The Artist and the Rebel mirrored my own duality – an immense power I struggled to escape and embrace.
A wounded animal will chew off its own leg to break free from a snare. Friends and grocery tellers often suffer the venom of a widow's grieving tones. And young girls cut themselves to release their inner agony. Our pain, unaddressed, takes us for a ride. This is the "value" of intoxicants – to numb the blinding pain of an untreated wound.
Disappointment, shame, and fear of ridicule are terrific motivators for a wounded heart to pick one person and try to make it last. These dark feelings, however, often manifest the darkness in us. Our relationship paths often spiral downward, toward further abandonment of self for the illusion of security found in another.
After high school, I attempted the seemingly stable realm of serial mini-monogamy. One boyfriend led to another; lovers would come and go. With so many passing connections and no clear boundaries of my own, I soon felt awash with the Wounded Prostitute; trading seconds of security for pieces of flesh and soul. I was emotionally homeless in a dangerous, lonely world.
Eventually, I sought refuge in the company of a young man who had the makings of a Great Protector. And he was. The Loner shielded me from everyone – except himself. Our chemistry was fierce, the sex intoxicating, and the relationship quickly became violent. The first bite to my face shook me, but when I yelped out in pain, he said he couldn't help himself, he wanted me so much – magic. Our world soon dwindled to the two of us, leaving no one to see my bruises or to watch me wasting away.
Pinned to the waterbed. Hands going numb. Wrists held tight above my head. His weight heavy on me.
"Get off of me." Fight back the tears. Don't let him see your fear.
"I will when you LISTEN TO ME!" I was twenty.
The morning he was taken to jail, I heard a tiny, frightened voice inside, pleading "run, run for your life." And I did.
Bitterness descended upon my heart: years of longing for connection, miles of flesh only to find myself alone in agony, with nothing to show for the time but bruises and disappointment. I had opportunity to seek sexual solace among a group of bisexual women. But I knew I would fail there just as I had with men, that the mess and the pattern would be the same. I could not abide that and turned my eyes to the floor.
The damage to my heart, body, and mind seemed irreparable. And I buried this awareness deep in the caverns of my soul, hoping no one would ever know how broken I was – not even me.
Somewhere inside, most of us believe that if we could just meet that perfect someone, then love wouldn't be so hard: we'd feel good about ourselves, relationship would be a safe place, and good sex would never end. The search for the perfect partner, the answer to our prayers, drives us repeatedly to an emotional pivot point where we choose to keep trying, or bag the relationship idea and go it alone. Even in surrendering to solitude, the notion often persists. For many, this remains the most nagging, puzzling facet of the human heart.
I fumbled for the phone, half-awake. It was my gynecologist ... genital herpes. I buried my tear-stained face in the pillow, disgusted and afraid. No one would ever love me now. I was twenty-one.
But along came the Hero: alone at the cafe, sipping espresso with his long hair, leather jacket and motorcycle helmet by his side. In his presence, my heart felt like the calm blue of the Caribbean. He offered soulful stability, free from the reckless world of drugs and alcohol I'd known all my life. I let my world melt into his and put the weight of my life in his hands. It was too much. It always is.
There we were – The Hero and the Butterfly Princess, with dragons to slay, castles to clean, and the glamour of perfection to maintain so the world would not see us dying inside.
"When are you gonna start having babies?"
"You would have such beautiful children."
"You know your mother's dying to be a grandmother."
"You're going to make a wonderful mother, Stephanie." I was twenty-five.
A lifetime of perfectionism set me up for a devastating fall from grace when I had two miscarriages instead the beautiful child everyone was hoping for. It's impossible to be a "good mother" if you can't even get them into the world. I blamed the Hero and God, but mostly myself, drowning in pain. Some women get back on the proverbial horse and try again. I shut down.
Often, on our sexual path, we come to a Place of Unraveling, where we no longer find refuge in the story we've been telling. We address the mirror to find a woman we don't recognize, along with closets of "clothes" that don't fit us. The makeup smears and we get a glimpse of the real woman underneath all life's contracts and conventions.
We have a choice then, to reclaim who we are. It's a matter of willingness ... to go to any length. When we are willing to grab our own hand and go forward, a Great Power fills us. The Place of Unraveling gives us a chance to live from faith – if we are willing to let things fall apart.
For years I'd tried to control my marriage: crying, complaining, pacing the floor at night waiting for him to come home. He loved me, he heard me, but nothing changed ... until I shut down. Then the castle crumbled. We entered therapy after several sexless months, and I began the slow, terrifying journey toward wellness – facing the sexual abuse of my childhood and the effects of an early entry into the delicate and dangerous adult world of sexuality.
These rites of passage ripped a hole for my soul to shine through. With the constant, compassionate support of my therapist, I removed the first layers of armor that had prevented me from loving or trusting myself. And, with the gift of great spiritual direction, we came to the end of our marriage in a state of love and relative peace. I was twenty-eight.
My personal work had brought me to a point of ... well ... wanting it all. I had seen how each of my relationships had lacked connection on one level, if not many. I was done accepting less! I was seeking someone with whom I could share all of myself – spirit, mind, voice, heart, guts, sex, and roots. And I wanted him right now...
After two stumbled, embarrassing attempts to convince old friends to fall in love with me, I met the One. I thrust myself into love, gorging on the passion I'd denied myself through the coldness of my marriage. And he received me with great enthusiasm, until one day he went away. Suddenly, without warning, my intensity went unrequited once again. Though my pattern of cold and hot was now horribly clear, I still wanted someone to love me back. My heart broke again as I began to understand that he was not the One ... because there is no One.
For, the One is not human. It is – as with all the others – an archetypal force whose traits manifest in each of us, to one degree or another. The One has the power to make all the pain go away, to cast aside all doubt, to build confidence in another, to forge a bond of safety with another, to promise all will be well and deliver on that promise for all time.
These are the qualities of God, not a human being, no matter how wonderful one may be. With this awareness comes the solemn understanding that the highest hope to have for a loved one is the freedom to be human, and that we need the same for ourselves.
And so it is with me: I am not the Butterfly Princess, though her magic and mischief shine in my eyes. I am Steph. Just me.
And, as Steph, I have been searching all my life for Him, the one wonderful Him to make my life complete and give me the love I so deeply desire. Every time I think I've found Him, the world seems lighter and more beautiful, and perhaps for a time it is. Because love, however naïve its origins, does bring hope and wonder to our lives and should never be minimized or trivialized. Without love, life simply is not worth the breath or the work. Still, the true source of love comes from one's own heart; if we continue to look outside ourselves, we will never find it.
5 a.m. We stood facing each other in the dim light of the empty parking lot. Holding hands, we gazed into one another's eyes for a full fifteen minutes. He did not look away. This was the most intimate moment of my life. I was thirty.
Finally, the Other snuck up and kicked my spiritual travel into overdrive with his honesty and persistent nudging toward self-actualization. I was still impulsive, intense, and willing to immerse myself in another's world. His patient, structured, quiet, and methodical nature blessed me with a clear picture of my own shadow. We struggled as our mirror journeys to the same place led us in opposite directions.
I tried so hard to hold the connection that, when the cord finally snapped, I landed squarely in own my lap – face-to-face with a lifetime of unmet grief. Somehow, as the hailstorm of loss poured from my chest, I stayed present. I took care of myself, let other women support me and, above all, did not seek solace in another man. With that change in behavior, something fundamental began to shift with my experience of love. I grew more patient and tolerant of the grieving process.
One day I found myself placing pictures of the Other, the One, and the Hero on my shelf, all blended together. Their faces, smiling back at me or kissing my cheek, sent me reeling. I understood then: the changes in our relationships came about because we needed room to grow, not because I was unlovable.
I could feel them all loving me. They'd loved me all along! My only error had been in expecting love to look and feel a certain way before I could accept it. As I take the time to love myself directly, others gain permission to love me in their own way. Their loving becomes an expression of their being instead of a statement about me.
I move forward today knowing that the love that I want is from myself. When I love myself truly, through every crappy mood and judgment I carry, I can trust myself. Then, I can go into the world and learn to trust others. Every archetypal energy carried by a lover resides, as well, in me. I am all these: Maiden, Artist, Rebel, Prostitute, Loner, Hero, One, and many others. The souls who carried these energies for me were and are my teachers.
I also move forward, having encountered some difficult truths about the world. We don't protect our children. We send mixed sexual messages to our teenagers, who could use our support instead of our own displaced fears and desires further mixing them up. And we habitually look outside ourselves for the core of love.
Yet the love or resentment we might feel for another is often nothing more than our own energy bouncing back at us to help our soul grow. Our Guides wear cloaks of many colors. And, though I may bless them with kisses or curse them in anger, I try to love them in the same way I try to love myself.
I've not yet come to where I'm going. That feels clear. But, having regained my own love along the way, I feel as if a lost friend has finally made it home. That just feels good.
The street of intimacy has a million stop lights and intersections – innumerable storefronts with tantalizing images of magic-made-real inside. The road is often lonely, even with the best of companions.
Still, we continue our work. Why? So that sexuality can be a respected part of ourselves, not something to be controlled by or ashamed of; so we may feel safe in loving someone, without needing to be by one another's sides at all times; even just to look in the mirror with love and know we are enough. And we are. By the sheer fact of being here, we've earned a seat at the table of life – one of respect, compassion, and consideration.
Because Love is the fabric of our existence.
Note: Stephanie Derosier manifests her dream through using creativity and the chakra system to clear the blocks that prevent people from being what we naturally are: clear channels for divine creativity and love. She writes, teaches classes, gives consultations, and does hands-on healing work. The above is an edited excerpt from a compilation of essays in the enlightening book, The Marriage of Sex & Spirit, edited by Geralyn Gendreau.
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